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More than 170 homes included in Scio Twp. development proposal

More than 170 new houses could be built on a Scio Township property if a proposal is approved later this month. Property owner Mark Smith says the project would bring residential infill development that could help stave off suburban sprawl. 
"It's a great location," Smith says of the W. Liberty Rd. property. "You're five minutes to downtown, you're two minutes to the freeway and half an hour to the airport. Going all the way back to when Scio Twp. had a master plan, it always called for this area to be developed in low density housing."
Smith and his wife have been working to develop the 162-acre property for decades, with plans for golf course and single family housing falling through for various reasons. Now, however, he believes the time is right and the property well-suited for housing. 
"It's been in my wife's family for a long time," says Smith. "We live on this property, and it is near and dear to our hearts, and it's a great location relative to the city."
The proposed development would ultimately include 176 houses, though some of those homes already exist on the property. Plans include lots of various sizes, including space for what Smith calls "traditional suburban" homes, and others for transitional neighborhood developments, such as multi-generational and smaller homes. 
A developer has yet to be selected as the Smiths await approval from Scio Township to move forward later in January. He expects the total amount of investment in the project to be in the tens of millions of dollars, and hopes, should all approvals be given, to begin site work this fall and break ground on housing in 2015. 
Source: Mark Smith, property owner
Writer: Natalie Burg

Pierre Paul Design adds more art, services in new Washtenaw Ave. space

Pierre Paul Design has moved to a new home just a brief walk away from its former Washtenaw Ave. location. Though the distance may be small, in all other ways, the move was a big one. The new storefront, which was the former home of a PNC Bank branch in the Arlington Square Shopping Center, is 800 square feet larger than the previous Pierre Paul space, is on the first floor rather than second, and is much more visible to passersby. 
"We needed more room," says Pierre Paul owner Lee Gilles. "We were more a destination business before. We're now more of a standard retail store, but everything here is connected to original art." 
In addition to adding room, Pierre Paul Design has introduced new inventory, services and partnerships since the Dec. 21 move. The retail space now offers interior design services to the public, and includes a growing variety of original gifts under $100. Among the new inventory are wares from local organizations, such as the Arbor Opera Theater and Cleary University, that will be sold to support the non-profits. 
"It's a win-win situation," says Gilles. "We're reaching out to community organizations that are connected to the arts to raise money for them, and they bring us unique products to sell."
With a highly visible storefront and more traditional retail offerings, Gilles is expanding his hours and business days to mirror the nearby Arbor Hills Crossing. He plans to expand his four-person staff by at least three to accommodate the new seven-day schedule and later hours. 

Source: Lee Gilles, Pierre Paul Design
Writer: Natalie Burg

Traverwood Apartments to bring 216 new residential units to A2's northside

Local commercial real estate firm First Martin has long believed their 19.82 acre property on Traverwood Dr. near Plymouth Rd. and Huron Pkwy. would make a great place for Ann Arbor residents to live, and now, the firm's plans to build 216 apartment units there is moving forward. 
"This project has been in the back our minds for a long time," says First Martin Vice President Mike Martin. "We've had a sign on the property for close to two decades, but various other opportunities took our attention."
Martin says the Plymouth Rd. area has proven to be a popular place for Ann Arbor residents in general, and anticipates a strong market exists for the forthcoming apartments. The development will have a slight emphasis on one-bedroom units, which will average around 850 square feet each, and will also include two-bedroom apartments. Approximately two-thirds of the units will include attached garages.
"We feel confident we'll get the typical demographic for the Ann Arbor rental market," says Martin. "With the location being adjacent to the city golf course and near the library, there is a lot of public and private infrastructure that will be very attractive the the residents who will live there."
Martin expects construction to begin on the Traverwood Apartments in late spring or early summer of 2014 and continue for 18 to 24 months. Once completed, he anticipates about six jobs will be created to maintain the complex. 

Source: Mike Martin, First Martin
Writer: Natalie Burg

Old Carolina Barbecue to open first Michigan location in Ann Arbor

When people think about barbecue, they often think about slow cooking from the South. A new restaurant coming to Cranbrook Village Shopping Center confounds both ideas. Though Old Carolina Barbecue offers southern-inspired cuisine, the growing franchise began in Ohio and offers it up fast-casual style. With plans to open in mid- to late February, the Old Carolina Barbecue will be the chain's first in another state.
"Expanding into neighboring state is a logical move for Old Carolina, wherein we are able to use much of the existing supply chain," says local franchisee Nick Ferris. "The fact that I was a resident in the local market, familiar with the business community, coupled with Ann Arbor being the premier and preferred market location for most restaurateurs and retailers entering the Michigan market, made sense to focus our efforts here."
The 3,315-square foot restaurant will will share a building with Potbelly and Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza on Eisenhower Pkway. Ferris says the location was ideal because it is in the Briarwood economic trade area with a number of complementary co-tenants nearby in the Cranbrook Village Shopping Center. He believes the tastes of local diners will be a great fit for the menu.
"The local consumer has a discerning…appetite," Ferris says. "While there are some places for barbecue in the local market, there is no fast casual environment. We believe the concept, and the exceptional food will be well received in this underserved category."
Ferris expects to employ 30 to 35 workers when the Old Carolina Barbecue opens early this year. He anticipates the restaurant becoming an active supporter of the Ann Arbor community. 

Source: Nick Ferris, Old Carolina Barbecue
Writer: Natalie Burg

Local CPA firm celebrates 66th year with new location and an eye on growth

Local firm Weidmayer, Schneider, & Raham CPAs, P.C. are starting the new year in a new, larger location in Scio Township. The business expanded from its former, 6,000 square foot home of 25 years into a 9,000 square foot space on Little Lake Dr. 
"We just had an opportunity to buy a larger and nicer building instead of renting," says Steven Schneider, managing principal for Weidmayer, Schneider, & Raham CPAs, P.C. "We decided to make the move, and it worked out well for us."
The larger location will allow Weidmayer, Schneider, & Raham to grow, though, after adding two new staff members over the last year, Schneider says he expects the 15-employee firm's growth to be slow and steady. He projects the firm will eventually grow to a staff of no more than 25.
"We'd like to be still be a small, local firm," says Schneider. "There are clients that can be well served by firms of our size. It's what our clients like, that contact with the principal."
After 66 years in business - and serving some of the same clients they began with - giving the same personal service to their clients has served Weidmayer, Schneider, & Raham well thus far.  The firm made the move on Dec. 31 and Jan. 2 and are now open for business in their new location.

Source: Steven Schneider, Weidmayer, Schneider, & Raham CPAs, P.C.
Writer: Natalie Burg

Growing Ypsilanti Food Co-op plans to expand bakery

At some point in the future, Ypsilanti Food Co-op shoppers will be able to get closer to their baked goods as they're being prepared. Growth and change have been underway at the co-op for some time now, and as the community grocer adjusts to recent renovations including a new checkout counter and point of sale technology, the business is looking toward a future with an expanded bakery area including customer seating. 
"Wanting to expand our bakery came from the idea that customers love the food that's being produced here," says Corinne Sikorski, general manager for the Ypsilanti Food Co-op. "We have our wood-fired oven that is pretty to look at, and fun to watch. That was kind of the push to open the bakery up so customers can see the bread baking."
The Ypsilanti Food Co-op currently operates in two-thirds of the first floors in a three-building group. The proposed expansion, which is still in early planning stages, would make use of the final third, bringing another 1,600 square feet of space into active use. 
In addition to increasing access to the bakery, Sikorski says the seating area will help the Food Co-op more fully meet its goal of being a true community hub. 
"We have a great selection of grab-and-go food, so expanding our area for them to sit down and eat is part of the intention," she says. "One of the draws of the Co-op is that it's more than just a grocery store. It's a community space. It's a place where people talk to their neighbors."
With visioning and planning still underway, Sikorski says no timeline is yet in place for the project, but she hopes to see the expansion move forward this year. She attributes the Co-op's growth and ability to keep growing, on the community's continued support of the member-owned business. 
Source: Corinne Sikorski, Ypsilanti Food Co-op
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ypsilanti Freighthouse moves $40,000 closer to renovation

Thanks to the commitments of some local organizations, the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse (FOYF) are closer to their goal of restoring the historic facility to full use. The volunteer-run group has secured $40,000 in commitments from the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority, Eastern Leaders group and private donors, which will be used as matching funds for a hoped-for $60,000 grant from the State Historic Preservation Office. 
"This is a community building," says FOYF chair Corinne Sikorski. "It's the only and the best place in our community to have groups of people come together. It's a really fun space." 
The FOYF has been working for a number of years to renovate the historic Depot Town building that was once a  part of the Michigan Central Railroad Complex. With the potential $100,000 in funding, should the grant be awarded, they plan to install a required fire suppression system. After completing that project, other necessary renovations to the space include handicap-accessible bathrooms and upgrades to heat and plumbing. When all of those renovations could be completed is currently tentative.
"I'm hesitant to set a date," says Sikorski, who says changes in FOYF board members and volunteers has impacted the project's momentum over the years. "But we're hoping in a year to everything done."
The vision for the renovated Freighthouse is expanded use as a community space, events venue and indoor farmer's market. 

Source: Corinne Sikorski, Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse
Writer: Natalie Burg

New beer and wine retail concept to open first location in Dexter

The Beer Grotto coming to downtown Dexter will be more than a retail store. Though beer and wine sales will be its primary function, those sales will come with advice, recommendations and information from alcohol experts, along with samples and even a chance to sit down and enjoy a drink inside the store. 
"Our goal is that you're never going to walk out of the store with something you haven't tried," says Beer Grotto President Sam Short. "We're going to have an educated staff, a good selection and the ability to test stuff in the store before you leave."
East Lansing resident Short is relatively new to Michigan, but has been in the beer and restaurant business for years. After working with a number of well-known names in the industry, such as Grand Rapids' Barfly Ventures of HopCat fame, he is moving into the retail business. In what turns out to be a happy coincidence, the prime location for launching The Beer Grotto is the same village that is home to his wife's family.
"It was serendipity," says Short. "Dexter is great because it's very close to Ann Arbor, but yet it retains this true American small town feel. But it still has 30,000 cars driving regularly through. It's a neat little community."
The Beer Grotto will open in the 3,000 square foot former home of Dexter Pharmacy on Main St. In addition to retail space, the business will include a lounge area in which customers to enjoy a beverage. He anticipates work beginning on the space in Jan., and hopes to open with a staff of about 15 employees in late April or early May.
Short plans for the Dexter location to be the first of 15 Beer Grotto locations. He anticipates the next two will also be in the Ann Arbor area, and will open in 2014. 

Source: Sam Short, The Beer Grotto
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ann Arbor native to bring Life is Good store to Main St.

Saline Spanish teacher Mark Messmore took an indirect route into the clothing retail business, but the downtown Ann Arbor resident and business owner will have a pretty direct path from his loft to the new Life is Good shop he's opening below it. After his computer consultation business, MMSC Consultants started veering into retail, he got the bug to get deeper into the business, which led him to the Life is Good franchise. 
"Life is Good is a good fit for me because the brand focuses on the power of optimism," says Messmore. "The power of optimism is limitless; that message resonates with me, and I believe it represents the Ann Arbor community well."
Messmore also believes the merchandise will appeal to the Ann Arbor market with it's wide range of clothing meant for everyone from outdoorsy folks to businesspeople. The Life is Good Store will open in a portion of Seyfried Jewelers' former home, a neighborhood close to the local Messmore's heart. 
"Certainly, I am sad to see Seyfried Jewelers leave," he says. "My mom went to high school and was best friends with Pam Seyfried, and they spent their weekends and holiday vacations in the back room of Seyfried Jewelers wrapping presents and helping at the store some 40 years ago."
Messmore will take control of the 900 square foot Main St. space on Jan. 1 and hopes to be open for business in March. 
Source: Mark Messmore, Life is Good
Writer: Natalie Burg

School of Rock to open on Jackson Rd.

Ann Arbor has no lack of interest in the arts and creative expression. That's exactly why entrepreneur Dianna Wilson decided opening her own School of Rock business was a great fit for the area. 
"[I] went to a couple operating School of Rock locations and was hooked," Wilson says. "I enjoy kids and music. To be able to watch kids develop and be proud of themselves is awesome."  
The new business is set to open in January in a 2,400 square foot location at 6101 Jackson Rd. Originally developed as an office building, Wilson says the segmented layout made it perfect for music lessons. The location is also ideal, she adds, for parents who may need to run errands during their kids' lessons at the many nearby retail stores. 
"School of Rock is a performance-based program," Wilson says. "It's not just taking lessons; they are learning to perform. The national exposure of the company offers some awesome and unique opportunities for students."
As the business gets established locally, those opportunities will include recording their work. A planned recording studio in the space will give kids the chance to learn the technical side of recording as well. 
School of Rock will open with a staff of seven. Wilson hopes to increase her number of employees as enrollment numbers grow. The exact dates for opening, enrollment and an open house will soon be available on the business' Facebook page. 

Source: Dianna Wilson, School of Rock
Writer: Natalie Burg

Curated vintage shop Dear Golden to grow into Fourth Ave. storefront

Women in Ann Arbor will soon have a new way to feel lovely. The curated vintage shop Dear Golden is planning to open on Fourth Ave. in  downtown early next year with garments from the 1920s to 1970s personally selected by owner Lauren Naimola for modern women. 

"Each garment is selected for it's fashion relevancy and overall quality," she says. "I have built a great customer base in the US as well as other countries."

Dear Golden was born online five years ago, and Naimola operated the shop from her home until it grew into a business that required its own space. About two years ago, she moved into an appointment-only location in Ypsilanti, but her continued growth only allowed that model to work for so long. 

"The shop, even by appointment only seemed to attract attention and I started wanting to be able to be open to the public simply because there seemed to be a desire for that," says Naimola. "Fourth Ave. is such a great spot, it is situated nicely between the State St. area and the Main St. area and seems like one of the last parts of downtown that could foster new businesses. When I saw Today Clothing was there I knew that my shop would fit in nicely." 

Naimola will be transitioning into the Fourth Ave. space over the next few months with an eye on opening in March of 2014. Along with the new location and regular hours, Dear Golden will feature a small number of new clothing by small designers selected to complement her vintage offerings. 

Moving to the 1,400 square foot space while continuing her online sales will prompt Naimola to expand from a one-woman operation to a business with staff. She anticipates adding two to three employees over the next year as Dear Golden gets established in its new space. 

Source: Lauren Naimola, Dear Golden
Writer: Natalie Burg

Barre Bee Fit opening new studio in Plymouth Road Plaza

After spending ten years in the corporate world, Ann Arbor native Adrianne Madias was looking for a more satisfying career. She found it when she met some women in Chicago who were starting a new fitness business, Barre Bee Fit
"I was already doing to a ballet barre class at the time. It's very addictive and very effective," says Madias, who opened the city's first Barre Bee Fit on E. Washington in 2011. "They had just opened the year prior, and we decided to use Ann Arbor as a test market. We've expanded to about ten different locations now."
Ann Arbor will soon be added to that list of growing Barre Bee Fit locations a second time, when Madias opens a new location in the Plymouth Road Retail Plaza, which opened with names like Starbucks, Big Salad and DFCU Financial in March. The 2,500 square foot studio will take up about a third of the development's second floor.
"I noticed there's not anywhere for women, or anyone, to get a great workout on this side of town," Madias says. It's lacking in group fitness. When I saw the space being built, I knew immediately it was where I wanted to open another location." 
Barre Bee Fit is a workout concept that combines Pilates, dance and yoga with a ballet barre-based workout. New to the Plymouth Rd. location will be a high tech audio and lighting system that Madias says will turn the 60-minute workout into an experience. Music and lighting will automatically ebb and flow with the progression of the class. 
Madias is currently in the middle of building out the space and plans to open the new studio in January, and will soon announce a grand opening date. Initially, she plans to employ three to four instructors and two front desk employees.

Source: Adrianne Madias, Barre Bee Fit
Writer: Natalie Burg

Bella Gallery brings handmade gifts, fine art to downtown Chelsea

While not an artist herself, Kim Watkins has always loved the arts. Nudged on by her appreciate of handmade goods and support from her artist friends, she decided to get into the art businesses with her own shop, Bella Gallery. The fine art and homemade goods store opened in November in a second-floor space on W. Middle St. 
"Everything is handmade artistry work," Watkins says. "That is the requirement to be in the store, and it has just really spread like wildfire."
Watkins began by telling her artists friends about the store, and her troupe of artists has grown quickly since then. She now carries pottery, wood carvings, oil paintings, fiber art, watercolors and more. New artists, she says, are joining the mix every week. 
"It has been awesome," Watkins says of the community's reaction to Bella Gallery thus far. "I want to be known as a gift destination and that is what is happening. We have stuff for everyone too, from thing for babies and children to wall art." 
Watkins now manages the store herself, with help from her neighboring entrepreneur, Deborah Coy of The Attic Boutique. She hopes to eventually grow into a larger, first-floor storefront and continue to showcase local artists. 

Source: Kim Watkins, Bella Gallery
Writer: Natalie Burg

Love of history leads to new Milan antiques and restoration shop

A love of history has been a part of Cassandra Smith's family for generations. Her great-grandmother was a historical scrapbooker, and her grandfather was also a history buff. True to her family heritage, Smith became a social studies teacher with a history minor, and learned to restore historic furniture from her mother about 20 years ago. Now, all of that family knowledge and years of practice are available to everyone through her new shop, C.K. Antiques and Restoration in downtown Milan. 
"We've always done restoration for family and friends," Smith says. "Over the last ten years I've been considering opening my own store, so I rented a booth out at the Livingston Antiques Mall, and the bug hit me. So here I am."
C.K. Antiques and Restoration opened just in time for the holiday shopping season on Nov. 29. The 2,400 square foot unit gives her room for a 1,000 square foot showroom, as well as space to restore her pieces. Smith both accepts furniture from customers to be restored, as well as finds her own pieces to restore and resell. 
An Ypsilanti resident, Smith says Milan was the perfect location to open her shop, with a quaint downtown and a community in need of an antiques store. 
"The town has been so welcoming and encouraging," Smith says. "A lot of them are excited that we're here. The response has been really positive." 
Smith describes her taste as broad and eclectic, offering shoppers a wide variety of antique items from various time periods. Though she is particularly fond of 19th century furniture, she say customers will find any thing old and unusual that catches her eye in the store. 
Source: Cassandra Smith, C.K. Antiques and Restoration
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ypsi eyes pop-up retail concept for downtown revitalization

Detroit has CityLoft and The Detroit Shoppe; Fort Wayne has HollyPop. Could Ypsilanti be the next city to add its name to a growing list of places featuring pop up retail locations? According to Ypsilanti DDA Director Tim Colbeck, if the answer turns out to be yes, it'll be a win for a variety of community stakeholders. 
"We're all kind of approaching it from different ends on the same spectrum," says Colbeck. "At the DDA, we're looking at it as getting rid of some downtown vacancies, and the city is seeing how it will effect their revenues and job creation. The SBTDC (Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center) are looking at it because they have people coming to them wanting to start businesses."
Though a specific location and official commitments are yet to fall into place, talks have been underway regarding the possibility of bringing pop-up retail to downtown Ypsi. The concept could take several forms, says Colbeck, from a temporary seasonal venue for retailers to a permanent location rotating small businesses through on short term leases. 
A number of downtown landlords have been contacted as possible locations for pop-up location, and Colbeck says some have expressed general interest in the idea. The ability to get a renter into some of the long-vacant spaces permanently, or even to showcase the space is attractive to many property owners. 
"It's just another tool in the toolbox that we think could be really useful," says Colbeck. "It' been done in other communities to real success."
For now, the DDA, City of Ypsilanti and SBTDC will continue to work out such details as zoning, permitting and occupancy rules to decide if the pop-up concept is viable and to narrow down a potential location. 

Source: Tim Colbeck, Ypsilanti DDA
Writer: Natalie Burg
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